Saturday, September 24, 2011

family matters...

Family matters to me.

All of my most treasured memories involve my family.

Whether the times were special because of what we were doing or just because my loved ones were there, I am not sure...perhaps both... but either way, I love to share the experiences of my life with those I hold most precious.

As I have grown, my understanding of family has changed somewhat, and so has the structure. My own family unit changed from a clan of 5 to an intimate 2 when I married my best friend almost 9 years ago.  Over the years, others have married and had kids, adding more brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews... Having more people in my life makes me realise just how great our capacity to love really is.

Yet there is still room in my heart for more.

The desire to add to our little unit of 2 has, over the past while, been met with disappointment, heartache and unfulfilled hope.

We have walked a difficult and tumultuous journey... I know it has been a short one compared to some... but still...

It is a road I would not wish upon anyone... yet it is also a place that I know you don't understand until you have been there. The lessons are hard to learn.

I have learned that the things you always think happen to "someone else" can just as easily happen to you... 

I have learned that despite how much you want or work towards something, there are certain things that are simply out of our control.

I have learned that my timing and my ways are not necessarily God's ways. I have learned to trust Him in spite of the circumstances.

I believe in a God who can do amazing miracles and defy a doctor's report. 
I know that if He wants to do that for us, He will.

However, I also know that He sees a bigger picture... and perhaps... just perhaps, the perfect baby for our family is not one created by us...

I believe adoption is a miracle all on its own.

So... with that in mind, we are moving north to be closer to some of our extended family as we work towards expanding our own. 

Because family matters.

A whole lot.

Also published on my blog

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Writing and Loss

I'm thinking about how writing influences memory and feelings of loss while reading Virginia Woolf's , Moments of Beingg but wonder how could I write without the creative connection I feel with my mother? In some way she is my muse. I feel her even when I'm writing about another subject. I think I write about  and with her to keep her close but in truth, I'm compelled to write about her. Is your experience writing about loved ones and loss an effort to contain the memory or are you like me? Do you write to remain connected? Since Virginia Woolf committed suicide, I think the losses she experienced were not resolved. I might be presumptuous to assume I know her in any way but that's how reading influences many of us. We feel we know the writer- especially if she writes autobiographically.

Virginia Woolf

Loss upon loss
Fears the greater loss

Imagine Virginia Woolf at thirteen. She lives in a busy household that centers around her mother, her mother who is forty...her mother who takes care of seven children-no eight because there’s one yet at home… a child not spoken of… a child who will disappear soon…a child who is called an idiot-child by Virginia as was the custom of the day. Imagine her mother is married to a man, her second husband, who is fifteen years older, a writer, and demanding. Imagine Virginia at thirteen in this busy house of guests and happenings… the same Virginia we all know through her writing… the Virginia who loses her mother on May 5, the same day of my mother’s death. Imagine Virginia at thirteen. She carries the presence of her mother (as I do) while her mother is long gone. She wrote in Moments of Being:

“I could hear her voice, see her, and imagine what she would do or say as I went about my day’s doings. She was one of the invisible presences who after all play so important a part in every life.’’ (80)
And as Virginia pours out her heart-words both troubled and turbulent in To the Lighthouse, a work of fiction that’s autobiography, she becomes empty and unbound to this once compelling presence of her mother. She asks, “Why, because I describe her and my feeling for her in that book, should my vision of her and my feeling for her become so much dimmer and weaker?” (81).  

And while writing again about her mother, 

she worries that she will erase her completely.

Columbine surrounding the bust of Virginia Woolf, sculpted by Stephen Tomlin.
Photograph by Pamela A. McMorrow

A selection from this post originally appeared in Oasis Writing Link.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unconditional Love

“Don’t be so nice to them, they’ll take advantage of you.” People have often told me this. More and more, it seems to me that being considerate, talking to people with a genuine smile, and going that extra mile to help another person are traits that are rare to find. Even when a person displays them, the general perception is that there must be an ulterior motive underlying the nicety. You can’t just want to be nice to someone for the sake of being nice, can you?

In my opinion, the problem arises when we view all of our interactions as “transactions.” The idea being that if I give something to someone, there must be an equal and opposite exchange from that person to me, or it’s an unfair deal. In a world dominated by fear, where we’re always scared that there won’t be enough left over for tomorrow, where we’re made to feel like we don’t even have enough for today so that we go out and buy something new – in such a world, it becomes increasingly difficult to operate from a place of selfless love where there is no expectation of anything in return for what I give. The irony is that this kind of giving – the kind with no expectation of reward or recognition in return - tends to be the most satisfying to the soul of the giver!

“Giving” doesn’t necessarily refer to a monetary gift. We often assume that charity is all about the money, and that only when I have enough money saved up in the future will I be able to “afford” to be charitable. That day, quite obviously, will never come. It will always be one bigger amount away. More often than not, some of the greatest deeds of philanthropy tend to be small acts of kindness that often go unnoticed by the public at large. Acts that require me to step out of my obsession with my own life and do something that might make someone else’s journey a tad smoother.

An incident that took place some hours ago got me thinking about all of this. I had just disembarked from a bus at the Kuala Lumpur airport, and had to wrestle with a luggage trolley to extract it from a train of empty trolleys that were jammed together real tight on the kerb. As I swerved away with my hard-earned trolley, I noticed a lady struggling to pull out a trolley for herself. She had a number of luggage pieces with her, delicately balanced one on top of the other on the ground. I left my own trolley and reached out to offer her a helping hand. She appreciated the gesture, and we exchanged smiles. Once she had her trolley, she was gone. I didn’t know who she was and will probably never see her again in my life. But in that moment of assistance, a vibration of kindness and gratitude was created.

There’s kindness, love, and compassion out there in the Universe. Each time we commit a selfless act, help someone in need, or even send out a genuine prayer for someone we don’t really know personally, we’re pulling forth some of that positive energy from Universal Consciousness and bringing it into our world.

It would be an act of charity to improve the quality of every interaction that we have with others in our world. What can we do to bring forth more positive energy into these interactions, and convert the negative energy pockets into free flowing plumes of unconditional love?

The most powerful force in the world is love. And the purest form of love is the unconditional kind. The kind that we think only a saint or God should have. “I’m just human, you know” is the excuse I often hear. If only we would realise that it is our “human”-ness that makes us capable of transcending the boundaries of instinct and mind to love without condition. To love the kind of love that exists only because the heart overflows with compassion for the other being – and for no other reason!

I have come to realise that it is only when I allow myself to give unconditionally, that I will be able to accept unconditionally as well. When my own actions are motivated purely by the extent of what I will get in return, I begin to view another person’s niceness to me from the prism of my selfish world view and am unable to recognize that person’s love for me as genuine. Therefore, in my desperate need to quantify and measure the exchange, I start to look for the ulterior motive. And it’s always easy to come up with one!

Each one of us is capable of functioning from a place of unconditional love. Does our world really have to be “ruthless” like many describe it as? “It’s a jungle out there” is what I’ve heard as well. The truth is that the jungle functions in perfect balance – just the way nature intended it to. Perhaps we need to create the jungle in our world as well, so that we can begin to live together in perpetual harmony rather than constant discord.

Also posted on my blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

when my time has come...

when my time has come, and I stop for a moment on my journey to look back over my shoulder to see those who have gathered, I wish to see hands up, I wish to hear voices raised in joyous song, I wish to see smiles and hear laughter... for when my time has come, the days and hours and minutes I was blessed to be, will be to the exact specification of Him, my Creator... 
it will not have been one moment longer or shorter than was precisely planned for my journey...

when my time has come, hold to all the moments we shared with each other and warm yourself in these memories we created... sing the silly songs we sang, laugh at each others human faults, frailties and missteps...

when my time has come, walk the highways of our blended journey and stop to take in all that beauty, drink in the knowledge that we somehow found each other and shared of ourselves...

when my time has come, know that I love you, respect you and will always hold you in the highest regard, for that is what you deserve my friend... know that in our times apart, you are always in my thoughts and never far from my heart... allow your tears to come if you must, but use them only to wash away the sadness and morph into sweet thoughts of glorious elation for all that we shared... my dreams for you will always be with you, coaxing, prodding, supporting...

when my time has come, know that I am just over the horizon, walking ahead on to the next adventure for my soul to experience, but I am also as close as your next thought of us together... what we share is never lost, only packed 
temporarily away until the next time we unwrap the moment and let it touch us again...

good bye's are never forever, just momentary... know that when it is time for you to take your journey, when your time too has come, that I will meet you with outstretched arms, smiles, laughter and tears of joy as you appear in the distance, with each step moving closer to our blessed reunion... 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everyone is Helping us!

I have been been thinking about the idea that at soul level everybody is helping us. This implies that everything that happens to us, everyone who is in our life, especially people who are maybe not so nice to us, are helping us to evolve.

This is a difficult concept to grasp, especially when we may be in an unhappy relationship, living in squalid surroundings, in a job we don't like where our collegues are not nice to us. How can these people be helping us?

If you believe in the law of karma, cause and effect, then you may be able to see that if someone is bad to you, they are either having their turn at being the bad guy, since in a previous lifetime you where bad to them. But how do you know this is the case, and is it healthy to just accept bad behaviour on the off chance that you may have done something terrible in another lifetime?

The' Everyone is helping us' idea is a little like the law of Karma but with the difference that on a soul level we have a pre planned life contract and our soul friends agree with you to meet you in this life either as a bad guy or as a good guy in order for you to have a chance to grow. This happens by choosing to react in love instead of in hate. So if I meet someone who is bad to me, If I choose to see this as a chance to evolve, I will not be caught in the blame game and I will be able to move on.

Easier said than done. We have now been given a chance to finally put all karma to rest, not to be born again everything that needs forgiving, released, let go is to happen now. Therefore wasting time in being angry with someone, feeling sorry for ourselves and holding grudges just keeps us stuck.

So next time you catch yourself feeling 'human' try and remember that at soul level everyone is helping us. We can ask for God's grace if we find it impossible to move past our own closed vision, that we are humans having a spiritual expereince for we are indeed spiritual beings having a human experience.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Astonishing light

Astonishing light

It was a small thing, really.  Just a quick glance, a social smile shared between strangers walking into a building.  He politely held the door in a gentlemanly manner, allowing me to precede him inside. Yet something about him seemed sad to me.  We separated in the foyer of the building, going in opposite directions.  I accomplished the business that I came there to do and walked back outside.

It was a stultifying, hot summer day.  We were in the grip of a killing heat wave and drought at the time, so I wasn't inclined to linger in the parking lot.  Yet, I did linger.  I glanced about and noticed an ornamental park with benches in the shade.  I can't explain why I chose to walk in that direction and sit on one of those benches, but I did it.  The heat was oppressive, so much that not even the wildlife seemed to have the energy to make accustomed nature sounds.  It was quiet in the manner only a humid summer day can be.

Perhaps five minutes after I sat down, steps approached and paused, causing me to look up.  It was the man with the sad eyes, holding two frosty bottles of water.

"Can I join you?" 

I smiled and nodded, and he offered me one of those bottles of water.

"I saw you through the foyer window and thought something cold might be appreciated," he said.

I accepted the kind gesture and we began to chat.  I could tell something was beneath the surface causing his eyes to look sad, but I didn't probe or press.  He was kind and cordial, and the conversation was pleasant.  We discovered a few things in common, discussed the local area, and drank our cold water in the shade, sitting on that park bench.  It occurred to me that I had snacks in my purse and I pulled out two packages of those cheese crackers with peanut butter.  When I offered him one, he appeared to be delighted.

"A feast!" was his comment.  We munched in companionable silence.  Another several minutes passed, with more conversation.

Finally, he looked at me with a very serious expression.

"Today, I was going to go home and turn the gas stove on in my kitchen, blow out the pilot light and let nature take its course.  I felt that I had no other choice.  I went into that building to visit my lawyer and make sure all my legal papers were in order so that my family would be taken care of."

This was the cause of the sadness behind his eyes.  I knew that whatever was happening in his life, I was not qualified to counsel him properly and I said as much.  He smiled, shook his head and placed a hand over my own.

"You're imminently qualified, young lady.  There's a light about you.  A brightness in your smile that you shared with me when we both walked into that building.  You didn't have to even look at me, but you took a moment to acknowledge me...and really SEE me.  It mattered, and I wanted to thank you.  I was hoping I would see you before you left that building.  And somehow, I got lucky."

We talked some more, and he revealed that his business had failed due to the lagging economy.  His house went into foreclosure and he wasn't able to continue to pay for his two kids' college tuition.  I didn't have a lot of advice to offer; mostly, I just listened.  He was a lovely man. Clearly intelligent, well spoken, obviously very well mannered, and just as obviously tormented on a very elemental level.  We did not know one another at all, save for that unexpected meeting at the front door of an office building, and a shared impromptu drink and snack on a park bench.  For me, it was a moment to simply be there for another person who was troubled.  I never once felt uncomfortable, or pressed to create a miracle.  I didn't have that  power.  This man's life was in an admittedly challenging place.  I doubted seriously that anything I could offer could make much of a difference.  What I did know was that listening was something I could do.  So, that's what I did.

We lingered there for about 90 minutes, in that humid summer day.  I refrained from using the word "should" in any part of that conversation, simply because I strongly felt that he didn't need to hear what I thought he should do.  I figured he had probably heard many "you should's" as he struggled to cope with the challenges in his life.  I did ask him to seek some form of counseling, because the thought of this very kind man ending his life alone, defeated and sad was heart breaking.  I also asked him to take my phone number and promise me that he would text me, at the very least, for the next five days, so that I knew he hadn't given in to the temptation of his earlier plan to end his life.  He agreed to this request.

Eventually, our conversation ended.  We sat in silence and he finally looked at me and smiled again.  To my eyes, it appeared that the sadness had eased somewhat behind his eyes.

He stood and offered a firm handshake, then gathered the debris of our water bottles and snack wrappers.  He took them to a garbage can, then returned to walk with me towards our cars in the parking lot.

I wanted to hug him, but refrained because I didn't want to presume or cause any awkwardness.  We stopped at my car and I smiled and reminded him of his promise to text me for five days.

"I will do that.  In return, I want you to promise me that if a day hits for you in the future where you feel sad, or defeated, or that you're not making a mark on the world, promise me that you'll call me.  Maybe then I can return the favor.  You made a difference today, and you did it with a smile and being a genuinely beautiful person.  God bless you."

And with that, he put a hand briefly on my shoulder, then he walked away to his own car.  In the proceeding five days, I received a single text each day that said, simply, "I'm still here." On the sixth day, the text that came said, "I'm smiling again."

These days, he occasionally sends a random text, and we have developed a friendship that is solid.  I have met his family; his children are now back in college, and he and his wife are in a stable living situation.  He is in a different career and seems to be recovering well.

Why am I relating this story?  I don't know.  I actually thought that I would never share it on a public level.  I never felt it was my story to reveal.  And for the most part, I remain devoted to protecting this friend's privacy by not giving his name or any other personal information.  The other day, I read a quote on Facebook that has always been one of my favorites.  It was on my sidebar on my Facebook page and it was from the "On this day in 2010, this was your status..." section.

This is what my status was on that day in 2010:

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. - Hafiz
Obviously, I found that quote to be beautiful when I posted it to my Facebook wall in 2010, and when I saw the repeat post on my sidebar, I was prompted to share this story.  I posted the quote again on my Facebook wall, and added this comment:

*How's that for a good reminder of our own beauty?* 
I didn't have any special skills, or any magical answers for this gentleman that I met unexpectedly that summer day.  Something...a set of circumstances...brought us together and I was led to take the steps that I did.  Happily, they resulted in a positive outcome, with not only this man choosing a different outcome, but with a genuine friendship that continues to this day.  The above Hafiz quote was a good reminder to me that many times, we're given chances to make a difference.  And sometimes, that difference can occur just from sharing that "astonishing light of our own being".  Sometimes, many times, that alone is more than enough to make a profound difference.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.